The back door slammed with such force it shook the whole office.
Though she was crumbling inside, Paige glared at Johnny and growled. “How could you do this to me?”
“I’m only trying to protect you,” Johnny replied.
“No, you’re not. You’re manipulating me. Using me. And trying to destroy my life for Grandpa’s land,” she screamed.
Doc Knight’s brows knitted in concern. Johnny chuckled nervously and flashed him a tight grin. “Must be the sunstroke making her talk so crazy.”
“I am not crazy, you bastard!” Paige screamed, rising from the table and backing Johnny against the door. “You lied to me! You told me Mayor Berger wanted us to tell the town how Grandpa was doing. You said he’d been getting so many calls from the concerned people of Haven he wanted us to put their fears to rest. You told me; you’d go up on stage with me so I wouldn’t be alone. Then what did you do? You lied again. You told everyone he was at death’s door. Then, even when I told you I would never marry you, you got down on your knee and asked me to marry you in front of the whole damn town.”
“How else was I going to get you up there to propose?”
“Why did you even propose in the first place? You know I’m never going to marry you. What part of no do you not understand?”
“You’ll change your mind.” Johnny’s lips curled in a cocky grin. “Your baby daddy just stormed out the door and out of your life, ’cause he don’t want you no more.”
“Because you lied to him, too, didn’t you? You told him the baby was yours just like you did Grandpa, you lying sack of shit!” Paige yelled.
“Is that true, boy?” Doc Knight asked angrily. “Have you been lying to everyone about this?”
“What’s it matter? Nobody wants her. Hell, Raymond told me her own mother never even wanted her. Told me she’d tried to give Paige to Raymond when she was a baby.”
Before she knew what she was doing, Paige raised her arm and slapped him across the face with all her might. The red imprint of her hand instantly rose to an angry welt.
“Why, you little bitch,” Johnny snarled. Grabbing her by the hair, he dragged her closer and raised his fist in the air.
Before he could punch her, Doc Knight slammed a tall, glass container of cotton balls down over his head. Johnny slumped to the floor as blood began pouring from the gash in his head.
“Dammit,” Doc spat. “Now I gotta stitch that little bastard up.”
Shaking like a leaf, Paige looked up at the old man. “You’d be doing the world a favor if you let him bleed out.”
Doc Knight started to laugh until he saw the tears spilling down her cheeks. Paige leaned over the exam table to shroud her grief as loud sobs tore from her throat.
“Hang in there, honey,” Doc cooed, gently rubbing her back. “Everything will work itself out.”
“No, it won’t,” she wailed.
While she bawled her eyes out, she heard Doc ask someone to send Jasper over to his office.
She lifted her head, wiped at her tears, and sniffed. “What do you need Jasper for?”
“So he can haul this abusive piece of…trash to jail for attempted assault after I stitch his stupid head up.” Doc handed her a bottle of water and smiled. “Here, take this and go across the hall to my office. There’s a big comfy couch in there. Lie down, pull yourself together as best you can, and just rest. You’ve been through enough for one day.”
She numbly nodded. “When that asshole comes to, tell him he’s fired. And ask Jasper to follow him to our ranch and watch him clear out his belongings. I don’t ever want to see Johnny’s face again.”
“I’ll pass along your wishes.”
She thanked him, then shuffled across the hall and sat on the fluffy couch. Tugging the cell phone from her back pocket, Paige counted five messages from Gina. She didn’t have the strength to reply yet. Talking to Austin and ironing out this whole mess was her top priority.
She tapped out a text, asking him to call her but Austin didn’t reply.
So she sent another and another, but the device in her hand remained silent.
Finally, she punched his number and called, but he wouldn’t answer.
She tried again. And again. And again.
Austin still wouldn’t pick up.
Cursing under her breath, she tried again, but her call went straight to his voice mail. Austin had turned off his phone.
As Paige’s cell slid from her fingers and dropped to the floor, she wrapped her arms around her waist, then hung her head and cried.
Her heart was still breaking, but she’d run out of tears. She’d shed them all for what could have been, what should have been, if only she hadn’t been so stupid and naïve.
If she’d been smarter and stronger and not afraid of people pushing her away, she would have made a million different decisions and not be where she was right now.
When she heard a tiny tap on the door, Paige sat up and wiped her cheeks, praying with all her might that Austin had come back to talk to her.
Paige held her breath as the door opened slowly. When Jasper poked his head in, she nearly broke down all over again.
“You doing okay, honey?”
“I gave Johnny two options, get his shit and get out of town or go to jail. He opted to leave town. I’m gonna follow him to your place while he packs his belongings and keeps his promise. Give us about thirty minutes, then he’ll be outta your hair for good.”
Paige flopped back on the couch and texted Gina, assuring her friend that she was going to be fine. It was probably a lie, but Gina had been through enough. She didn’t need to burdened with Paige’s problems.
Paige considered typing out every bit of Johnny’s subterfuge and sending it to Austin, but she didn’t want to explain everything via text.
She needed to tell it to his face so she could gauge his reactions.
So he could scoop her up into his arms and apologize for thinking the worst.
So he could tell her he loved her and would never doubt her again.